Getting deep brain stimulation (DBS) for essential tremor

What to expect from DBS surgery

From the evaluation stage through living with your device, you’ll have the support of a neurologist and neurosurgeon with special training and experience with DBS therapy.

Connect with a patient ambassador

What was surgery like? How did DBS change your tremor? When you want to know what DBS is really like, sometimes the best people to talk to are the ones who’ve been there. Connect with a patient — not a Medtronic employee — who volunteers to speak with people considering DBS therapy for essential tremor.

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Step 1: Evaluation

Determine whether or not you are candidate 

Your neurologist — typically a movement disorder specialist  — will evaluate you to see if DBS is a good option for you. The evaluation usually includes:

  • Medical history

  • Neurological exam of your movements, both on and off medications

  • MRI of the brain to check whether there are any issues that would pose a risk during the surgery

  • Lab tests, such as a blood test to make sure your blood clots properly

  • Neuropsychological tests

The doctor will share the results with you, and together you will decide whether or not to go forward with the therapy.

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Step 2: Planning 

Preparing for your journey 

Your doctor will create images and maps of your brain to help guide the placement of the lead during the surgery. You will have an MRI or CT scan to capture images of your brain.

Step 3: Surgery 

Placing the system

There are two parts to the DBS surgery: implanting a thin wire (lead) in the brain and placing the pacemaker-like device, called the neurostimulator, under the skin of the chest. The two parts may be done on the same day or two different days.

Step 4: Programming 

Getting the initial settings right

A few weeks later, your doctor will turn on the neurostimulator and adjust the stimulation to best control your symptoms while minimizing side effects.

  • Most people don't feel the stimulation at all when it’s first turned on, but some feel a brief tingling.

  • It will take a few programming sessions to find the stimulation levels that work best for you — don't get discouraged.

  • You'll have follow-up visits to check your results and adjust as needed. These appointments are key to getting the results you want over time.

Step 5: Continuous therapy 

Returning to regular activities

Then it's time to get back to your life!

  • Return to your usual activities, always following your doctor's guidance on what's okay and what to avoid.

  • DBS delivers therapy 24 hours a day, so it's working to control your symptoms when you wake up first thing in the morning.

There are some activities people with a neurostimulator should approach with caution. Learn more.

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Step 6: Checkups 

Getting ongoing care 

It's extremely important to attend all your checkups with the doctor who manages your DBS therapy. Your doctor will:

  • Make sure that your DBS system is working properly

  • Adjust your stimulation to best control your symptoms

  • Check the battery of your neurostimulator to see when you may need a device replacement

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Hear a neurologist answer common questions about Medtronic DBS for essential tremor.

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Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.